All of dominicq's Comments + Replies

Making friends

Something like that, yeah

Taking a simplified model

I don't mean this only for group sizes, but good point, there could be a qualitative difference and simplifying is actually fundamentally changing the topic.

I don't know, I still feel like it helps me figure out the core of a problem. However, I agree that asking if a proposed solution scales is important for the types of issues I listed in the examples.

My current uncertainties regarding AI, alignment, and the end of the world

Your strategy for AI risk seems to be "Let's not build the sort of AI that would destroy the world", which fails at the first word:  "Let's".

I don't have a strategy, I'm basically just thinking out loud about a couple of specific points. Building a strategy for preventing that type of AI is important, but I don't (yet?) have any ideas in that area.

Ok, perhaps I was too combative with the wording. My general point is: Don't think of humanity as a coordinated agent, don't think of "AGI" as a single tribe with particular properties (I frequently see this same mistake with regard to aliens), and in particular, don't think because a specific AI won't be able or want to destroy the world, that therefore the world is saved in general.
Slack Has Positive Externalities For Groups

Time-slack isn't rewarded with status that much, I think. Whenever someone can say "yeah, whenever's fine" in response to somebody that can only make it for exactly 4.32 minutes every second full Moon but only in January, I rarely find that this person is awarded status, even implicitly. It's basically taken for granted. Which reinforces your point that high-slack people don't capture the upside that much.

And which, in turn, leads me to ask: is the status payoff enough even for a rough selection? I think not. To reliably select for high-slack people (and t... (read more)


Regarding 2 and 3: that's the main practical perk of reading LessWrong, or as I'm inclined to call it now, SoonerRight.

Thanks everyone!

Rising rents and appropriate responses

In my experience (Zagreb), you have this same organic development which leads to very crowded buildings with drastically different styles (like massive apartment buildings "boxing in" houses), very little pedestrian space, few parks and green areas... Some pretty messy and inhospitable neighborhoods.

Also some really good ones, so I'm wondering if the main factor is "some person in charge of a building wants to ensure that it fits the neighborhood".

Rationalism before the Sequences

For me, probably 2. I read "How to become a hacker" several years ago and it shaped many of my career-related choices. The writing/reasoning style is very similar to the ratsphere, so I was not too surprised that I would also find you here.

What are all these children doing in my ponds?

I totally get the frustration, that's why I felt the disclaimer in the beginning was necessary!

As for the question of many students - yes, absolutely. Promoting EA is a smart and valuable goal, and will definitely produce more effect ("or you raise awareness in town, and try to explain to others that there are children drowning in some ponds nearby"). And, as you say, it's precisely what Singer is doing.

Regarding systemic change: I think that's a conversation stopper in many cases. People say "X is cool and everything, but what we REALLY need is systemic c... (read more)

What are all these children doing in my ponds?

I'm sorry you don't find it valuable. It's an argument that bugged me - I first heard it only a couple of years ago on a podcast completely unrelated to EA, accepted is as valid, but felt that something was off. I worked through my confusion and this is the result. Maybe everyone who hears it immediately thinks of all the criticism you listed, but I doubt it. 

Who benefits from the last sentence? I guess people like me, or whoever hears the analogy and accepts it without first analyzing it a bit.

It's not criticism of Singer in general either. Chri... (read more)

In retrospect, my reading of the post (and my reply) were more uncharitable than I would've liked. To clarify where I'm coming from, it pattern-matched to two things I've grown frustrated with over time: Firstly, it gave me the impression of an outside critique of a field without engaging with its strongest arguments, as happens a lot to the rationality community as well (e.g. here's an old SSC post [] on the general problem). And secondly, the final sentence pattern-matched to the ubiquitous "we need systemic change" criticism of effective altruism (subjectively, it appears in every single news article on EA), which doesn't seem particularly fair when everyone in the field is aware that of course systemic change would be better in principle, but it's incredibly unclear how to handle such problems in a tractable manner. (Not to mention that tons of interventions intended to effect systemic change actually perform significantly worse than e.g. cash transfers.) Finally, when I mentioned you hadn't added an arbitrary number of students to the analogy, I meant that in your modified analogy a single individual seemingly has to save the entire world, whereas once you allow for many students, one way to resolve such a world would be to promote altruism more widely or even help build a community of effective altruism, as Peter Singer has done. Isn't that the kind of systematic approach you were calling for?
Bureaucracy is a world of magic

That is true, rarely do you get someone who intentionally wants to make you miserable. They usually just make you miserable as a side-effect of not caring enough, but as soon as you're sufficiently annoying, they do one of those two things.

The crux is that you must be annoying but in a sweet, non-threatening kind of way, over wise your interlocutor may switch to actively against you.
Bureaucracy is a world of magic

Added to reading list, thanks!

Buying a house and making friends in unexpected places

Going outside of the world of house buying, I find that 50% of interactions I had with repair people were like that as well. So that definitely makes sense.

Other explanations are that people are afraid of trying things out, don't have time, or insist on a reality that simply isn't there (that when you pay someone to do something, they should reliably do it).

dominicq's Shortform

"Embracing the Extended Mind" is my short film (8 min) about the importance of embracing things outside of your head so that things inside of your head can work better. Watch it here:

Reflections on the cryonics sequence

Excellent! I've also been cryocrastinating for far too long, this might be the impetus I need to finally start.

Oh yay, that's exactly what I was hoping to accomplish! Good luck!
dominicq's Shortform

I want to share one of the most useful articles I read: You Might as Well Be a Great Copy Editor.

Most writing is MUCH better if it goes through at least one editing pass, with diminishing returns the more editing you do. The trick is not to mix writing with editing - write first, let it be ugly, let your stream of consciousness take you away. And when you're done, then become the critic and the editor.

Taking money seriously

I totally agree with "activists are one of the constraints". And while getting more knowledge can give you greater legitimacy, there's also significant opportunity cost here. Like, in certain eco-activism circles, you have to specialize. You need to learn skills, and the specialization is even more granular than someone from the outside might expect. Example: there's a lot of training involved in preparing and releasing banners, or in organizing peaceful demonstrations. You simply don't have time to learn about the subject matter in depth, because you have... (read more)

Rule Thinkers In, Not Out

A good explanation of the difference between intellectual exploration and promoting people. You don't need to agree with everything someone says, and you don't even need to like them, but if they occasionally provide good insight, they are worth taking into account. If you propagate this strategy, you may even get to a "wisdom of the crowds" scenario - you'll have many voices to integrate in your own thinking, potentially getting you farther along than if you just had one thought leader you liked.

Having many smart people you don't necessarily agree with, l... (read more)

Great minds might not think alike

This is no surprise — as I mentioned, translators are few and far between — but this example goes to show how useful a translator can be.

In addition to that, they can be explicitly unwanted or feel unwanted. I think that this is partially because translation is often done by people who argue for moderation to give off an air of wisdom which isn't there.

But another, maybe more significant part, is the fact that even good translators (like Scott Alexander) have limited power. Not everyone wants to read Scott Alexander-like bloggers, and not everyone wan... (read more)

Engaging Seriously with Short Timelines

Some career ideas for non-math and non-finance people:

Pursue a more primitive lifestyle: live off the land and farm. You can make it escapist (trying to ignore what's going on in the world) or a strategic fortress (if everything crumbles, I will not starve in the city). Everyone will always need food, so for as long as there are humans, there will be need for those who grow it. Also a good option because you can dial the primitive part up or down: you can either be a secluded monk or a farmer feeding the region.

Pursue a trade or human contact job: no GPT will replace a nurse, a physical therapist, a plumber, an electrician. For as long as people need things, they will need someone to do these things for them.